ADEKUNLE ADESUJI, Abuja
Senate Panel on Thursday disclosed that it was in possession of documents that revealed how port ‘cabal’ defrauded Federal government of N30 trillion.
The chairman of the joint Committee on Customs, Excise & Tariff and Marine Transport, Senator Hope Uzodinma, who made this known during investigation, vowed that all those ‘cabals’ would be made to face the full wrath of the law.
The Committee had in May commenced investigation into the over N30 trillion fraud allegedly carried out in the import, export value chain between 2006 and 2017.
However, several avenues in which ‘cabal’ are defrauding the country, according to the document in possession of the committee, are incorrect origin, error in calculation, temporary importation, exemption and waivers, forex manipulations, document forgery, under valuation, incorrect classification, lack of exit certificate by vessels, unit cost Analysis and Excise.
Others include smuggling and illegal removal of cargo from terminals, abuse of Form ‘M’ and violation of Foreign exchange manual issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Speaking during the hearing, Senator Uzodinma cited a situation where a particular cargo left Italy with 20,000 metric tonnes in the document but was changed to 5,000 metrics tones when the cargo arrived Nigeria.
Uzodinma said: “It is common knowledge that infractions abound in daily transactions at the nation’s sea ports, commercial banks, shipping companies, terminal owners and operators who connive at ease with officials to defraud our dear nation in trillions of naira.
“Preliminary evidence before us suggests that this is the case in all sea ports. Indeed, initial evidence at our disposal clearly suggest that the port cabal has in recent memory defrauded the nation of well over N30 trillion.
“It is distressing to note that while our nation is undergoing an exhausting recession, a group of unpatriotic persons, who brazen constitute themselves into a cabal are determined to deepen the pains of the nation through very repugnant practices.”
The chairman had said the committee would do everything possible to ensure that the mandate given to it by the Upper Chamber to recover and block leakages would be carried out to the latter.
“You recall Senate in plenary mandated this committee to investigate and identify areas of revenue leakages in the entire import and export circle. The committee has started investigation. We took time to enter into the import and export value chain and we have been able to identify areas of leakages and malpractices.
“This is ranging from unutilised Form Ms, abandoned Form Ms, partially abandoned Form Ms, abandoned assessment of Customs Duties and foreign exchange allocation manipulation. We have been able to go into the database of the operating system of Nigeria Customs Service otherwise called ASCODA.
“We identified Form M by Form M, import by import, vessel by vessel, liabilities of importers and commercial banks that are yet to be handled.
“We are talking about monies in regions of over 30 trillion and we have been able to give all these information to the various commercial banks that purchase foreign exchange on behalf of the importers.
“We met with the banks today and asked them to go home and come back in three weeks to show us evidence of utilization of the forex. Failure of which they will be compelled to refund those foreign exchange they bought from Central Bank or Inter Bank to be used for import,’’ he said.
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